History tells us that Benjamin Bolton and his two eldest sons, William and Arthur, began a printing business known as Bolton & Sons on March 25, 1885. But the Bolton name could just as easily have been erased from the annals of Bendigo during the treacherous sea journey that brought them from England in 1883.

Benjamin, his wife and eight children (the youngest of whom was only three months old), boarded the “clipper” ship Ivanhoe on 17 July 1883 with little idea of what lay in store for them. Halfway through their 84-day journey the Ivanhoe found itself in the midst of an equinoxial gale. For two days and nights the ship was battered by huge seas and winds, while the Boltons and other passengers were battened down below deck with just a few candles and no fresh food or water.

The ship and its passengers survived, but many of the crew were injured and the ship was badly damaged. Having survived the gale, a week later the Ivanhoe was hit with sleet, hail and snow, and the peril of icebergs. It must have been a great day for the Bolton family when Cape Otway appeared out of the fog and the cry of “land ho!” echoed about the ship. The Bolton’s had arrived, and a Bendigo institution was about to be born.

The location of the original printing business was in High Street, but later moved to Williamson Street where the business underwent a name change to Bolton Bros and expanded into manufacturing paper bags and other stationery lines. In 1902, Bolton Bros moved to 43 Mitchell Street which housed the retail stationery department and the main office, while the printing factory was on the second and third floors. Next door at 47 Mitchell Street the wholesale division and machine service department operated. William and Arthur Bolton and their sons travelled throughout central and northern Victoria selling their own products and representing other companies.

They are credited with being the innovators of the loose leaf ledger. Today, of course, the business is back in Williamson Street with an even greater presence, but the same entrepreneurial flair that has seen it survive and flourish through everything history has thrown at it. Having gone through five generations of family ownership, current company director-David Bolton, is proud of his company’s history and contribution to the local economy.

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